I, like a lot of people, absolutely hate peeling hard-boiled eggs.
For the majority of my life, this hatred caused me to pretty much avoid making them. But then, in an effort to reduce his carb intake, my husband switched from having a daily bagel in the morning to a hard-boiled egg.
As the partner responsible for taking care of food in our household, I’m now regularly boiling up batches of hard-boiled eggs. But there’s one problem: They’re always difficult to peel! Since I’m obsessed with learning tips and tricks in the kitchen, I figured there had to be a solution to my egg dilemma.
It seems like everyone has their own ~trick~ that supposedly makes peeling eggs easier, from adding vinegar to the water to shocking the eggs in an ice bath.
But do any of these gimmicks actually work? I decided to spend a day dedicated to finding out.
The most common thing I hear people say is that you shouldn’t use fresh eggs, because fresher hard-boiled eggs are harder to peel.
So for every round of testing, I tried both fresh and week-and-a-half old eggs to see if it made a difference.
There seems to be some debate online when it comes to boiling methods, though.
Some articles recommend putting the cold eggs in cold water and then boiling, while others urge you to drop cold eggs into already boiling water. People do concur, however, that you should cool the eggs afterward in an ice bath.
To account for this, I tried three different boiling methods.
• Method #1: Add eggs to cold water, bring them to a boil, cook for 12* minutes, and then cool in an ice bath.
• Method #2: Add eggs to boiling water, cook for 14* minutes, and then cool in an ice bath.
• Method #3: Add eggs to boiling water, cook for 14* minutes, and then cool at room temperature.
*I did a few tests in advance to determine exact boiling times, which vary by egg size, stove, etc.
I decided to have my husband David peel and rate the eggs from 1 to 5.
Since he has one every day, I figured he’s the closest thing to an expert in the field of egg-peeling that I’d be able to find!
For the scoring, I instructed David to give a 1 to eggs where the shells basically come right off with no effort, 2 for eggs that require a little effort but are still generally easy, 3 or 4 when the shells are so difficult that chunks of eggs start to come off, and 5 being an all-out pain in the ass to peel egg.
The first eggs I boiled were my control group, with nothing added to the water.
These are the 10-day-old eggs, after I hard-boiled them:
Here are the scores: 1 (super easy), 5 (very difficult), 2 (somewhat easy).
Surprisingly, the cold egg that went straight into boiling water was the most difficult to peel. But this was just the start of my testing, and I recognized it could just be an inconsistency among that particular dozen.
And here are the new eggs, which I bought the morning of my test, hard-boiled:
Scores: 2 (pretty easy), 2 (pretty easy), 4 (difficult).
TAKEAWAY: Early indicators suggested that older eggs aren’t necessarily much easier to peel.
The results were pretty across the board, which is generally what you expect when peeling a bunch of hard-boiled eggs.
Also, the most difficult to peel egg came from the batch of eggs I’d bought over a week prior.
For this round of testing I mixed a teaspoon of baking soda to my water before adding any eggs. I’d read online that adding too much baking soda could cause your eggs to taste sulfuric, so I didn’t want to add too much.
Starting with the older eggs:
Scores: 3 (somewhat difficult), 1 (super easy), 3 (somewhat difficult).
The egg that was dropped into boiling water was actually super easy to peel, but the others were just as difficult as the control group.
Then the fresh eggs:
Scores: 4 (difficult), 3 (mid-range in difficulty), 2 (somewhat easy).
TAKEAWAY: The baking soda didn’t make any difference.
There were a few eggs that were really easy to peel, but no consistency, and in general they were just about as difficult to peel as the control group.
Another recommendation I found online was to add vinegar to the water, so for this test I added about a tablespoon of white vinegar to the water. And you know what? it actually made a difference!
Check out these almost-perfect-looking week-and-a-half old eggs:
Scores: 1’s across the board!
Then the fresh eggs:
Scores: 1 (easy), 1 (super easy), 2½ (pretty easy).
The egg without an ice bath didn’t come out perfect, but even so, pretty much painless peeling.
TAKEAWAY: All of the eggs I boiled in water with vinegar were significantly easier to peel.
Who would have thought?
Literally, the shells just come right off!
The science behind this? Eggshells are made of calcium carbonate, and when you add vinegar to the water it dissolves some of the shell.
1. Older eggs were slightly easier to peel than fresh ones — but not by much.
To be totally honest, I didn’t really see much consistency when it came to the age of the eggs. The week-and-a-half-old eggs did seem to peel slightly easier than the fresh eggs, but not by much. I definitely wouldn’t not hard-boil a batch of eggs just because they were purchased recently.
2. Dropping cold eggs into boiling water and then cooling them in an ice bath also makes a slight difference.
The eggs that were dropped into hot water did score better, in general. The same goes for using an ice bath. However, none of these made nearly as dependable a difference as the vinegar did.
3. Vinegar consistently makes eggs easier to peel!
After dedicating an entire day to testing egg hard-boiling methods, I can tell you that vinegar was the standout winner.
I’ve made a couple of batches of hard-boiled eggs for David since completing this experiment, and according to him they’ve been continued to be comparatively easier to peel. So I’m definitely happy with the results!
4. The vinegar does, however mess up the shells a little.
When the vinegar weakens the eggshells, it makes them easier to peel. However, it also leaves you with a less-than-perfect-looking shell. So if you’re hard-boiling eggs to dye and hide in your backyard, then you may want to go with a more traditional hard-boiling method, which will leave the shells intact.
TAKEAWAY: Here are five simple steps to make an easy-to-peel hard-boiled egg.
By: Mathew Jedeikin